EVALUATION OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NATIONAL POLICY ON PRE-PRIMARY EDUCATION IN ENUGU STATE
Background of the Study
Quality education is the greatest legacy any country can bequeath to its citizens. To ensure quality education, government has tried to provide the National Policy on Education that addresses the needs and aspirations of the people. The need for National Policy on Education arose as a result of general dissatisfaction of the people with the educational system inherited from the colonial masters. The system failed to a large extent to support, growth and development of the nation. It became very necessary for the convocation of 1969 conference to evolve educational system that would cater for the needs of the people. With the subsequent seminars and workshops the National Policy on Education emerged. The National Policy on Education is the document of the government that contains information about the philosophy and goals of all levels of education in the educational system. It also contains the responsibilities of both the government and the stakeholders in the provision of education services. The document was first published in 1977 and revised in 1981, 1988 and 2004 (FRN, 2004).
The quest to provide education services for quality education, made the international community to hold world conference on Education for All (EFA) in Jomtien in 1990 and subsequently at Daker in 2000 (Obanya, 2000). In the conference, it was agreed on, to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood education among others by the year 2015 by all participants (Maduewesi, 2006).
The government responded to the demand of EFA by including in the National Policy on Education the establishment of pre-primary section in the existing public primary schools (F.R.N., 2004). Pre-primary education is the education given in an education institution to children prior to their entering the primary schools. It includes the crèche (0 – 2) years, nursery (3 – 4) years, and kindergarten (4 – 5) years (FRN, 2004). The present study focuses on the nursery schools. It is obvious that children who attend good nursery school will have better opportunity to transit easily to primary school and equally respond better to the demands of this level of education. This is because, according to Carnage Task Force on meeting the needs of children (1999), children raised in a stimulating environment such as good school and are provided with good nutrition have measurable better brain functioning. Good environment and food affect not only the number of brain cells and the number of connection among them but also the ways these connections are fixed. The process of connecting the brain cells is guided to a large extent by the child’s sensory experiences of the world (Ezema, 2009). Early Childhood education will promote the holistic development of the children and will equip them with knowledge, skills and competencies needed to meet the demands of everyday life.
In order to meet the demands and requirements for the development of children, the purposes and responsibilities of the government are outlined in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004:12) which includes:
- effect a smooth transition from home to school;
- prepare the child for the primary level of education;
- provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work (on farms, in market, offices etc);
- inculcate social norms;
- inculcate in the child the spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, environment, art, music and playing with toys etc;
- develop a sense of co-operation and team spirit;
- learn good habits, especially good health habits, and teach rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms etc through play.
The purpose (objectives) of pre-primary education as contained in the National Policy on Education covered the curriculum of the pre-primary education. It contains all the learning experiences a learner has to pass through in the process of education. The curriculum as defined by Offorma (2000) is an organized knowledge, skills and attitudes presented to the learner in school. It covers ever element in the learning environment which includes subject matter, various educational policies, content and learning experiences as well as infrastructural provisions.
The curriculum components as contained in the FRN (2004:11) include:
- inculcate social norms;
- inculcate in the child the spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music and playing with toys etc;
- develop a sense of co-operation and team spirit;
- learn good habits, especially good health habits, and
- teach rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms etc through play.
The curriculum of the pre-primary education was carefully designed for children at their formative years to acquire the right values and quality education that will enable them to adapt and respond to the demands of the time. This will enable the children to achieve self reliance and effective citizenry. In support of the above assertion, Okonja (2009) affirms that when nursery school children are introduced early enough to those ideals that will arouse their creative and innovative ability, scientific and technological discoveries will be enhanced.
Despite the effort of the government to provide the curriculum guidelines on the pre-primary education, the study of Ezema (2009) indicates that the learners in the nursery schools do not use the guidelines but rather produce their own curriculum. Ezema further rationalized that the teachers are not curriculum experts and may not include all the needed learning experiences that will enhance holistic development of children at this level of education.
The government, having provided the guidelines towards the smooth running of the nursery education, accepted to carry out the following responsibilities as stipulated in the policy:
- to establish pre-primary section in the existing public schools and encourage both community/private efforts in the provision of pre-primary education;
- make provision in teacher education programmes for specialization in early childhood education;
- ensure that the medium of instruction is principally the mother tongue or the language of immediate community; and to this end will develop the orthography of many more Nigerian languages, and produce textbooks in Nigerian languages;
- ensure that the main method of teaching at this level shall be through play and that the curriculum of teacher education is oriented to achieve this, regulate and control the operations of pre-primary education. To this end, the teacher-pupil ratio shall be 1:25;
- ensure full participation of government, communities and teachers association in the running and maintenance of early childhood education facilities.
The government accepted to ensure the implementation of the above stipulations. The purpose of establishing pre-primary education in the existing public primary schools by the government is to ensure that every child in the various localities has the opportunity of going to school. This is to give the children the firm base for further education. It seems as some schools in the rural areas lack most resources needed for effective education delivery. According to Ezema (2009), most schools in the rural areas do not have adequate human and material resources for effective learning. Both infrastructural and instructional materials are in short supply. Most of the teachers come to school late and some do not come to school on market days as they are involved in buying and selling in the markets. It is sad to note that in some urban schools, the situation is almost the same thing. According to Eze (2001), most school in the urban areas are dilapidated with blown off roofs and cracked walls. Most of the people living around the schools are less bothered about the degree of dilapidation but rather wait for government’s intervention (Ekpo, 2002).
Another important variables that influence the acquisition of education in the nursery schools is the issue of qualified teachers. This level of education is very delicate and crucial and requires specialist teachers who possess appropriate knowledge, skills and pedagogy needed in handling children at this level of education (nursery). The government has indicated in the National Policy on Education that provision would be made in teacher education programmes for specialization in early childhood education. Specialist teachers at this level of education are those that read early childhood education.